Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scores twice against Chelsea as Arsenal come from behind to win FA Cup

By Sam Wallace, UK Telegraph

It has been a rookie managerial season like no other for Mikel Arteta, who was appointed In a crisis at Christmas and now finishes with an FA Cup triumph at the start of August – a trophy out the blue that should future-proof his Arsenal reign for some time to come.

This was a FA Cup final full of all the dramatic stuff: great goals, big injuries, a red card and the bad feeling that ordinarily has existed between these two clubs since they first began competing on the same level In the modern era. For Frank Lampard, it just about all went wrong In the crucial moments of the game but for his opposite number Arteta, the plan seemed to work perfectly and delivered a trophy ahead of schedule.

Can we discern the shape of the Arteta years In this FA Cup run In which teams with better league finishes have been beaten when it mattered? Over seven months, Arteta has had to tame the volatile forces long since unleashed at a club where for years results have fallen far below expectations. He has shown In two wins at Wembley over Manchester City and now Chelsea, what a route out of the mediocrity might look like for Arsenal.

Their future looks promising, although a note of caution: it will be much harder should this final’s match-winner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have a better option In the forthcoming transfer window. He scored the penalty he himself won In the first half, and his finish for the winner was the game’s moment of outstanding quality. In between there was much more to admire In Arsenal who demonstrated a ruthless edge over the course of this game, including the relentless demand for referee Anthony Taylor to dismiss Chelsea players.

The referee who was taking charge of his second FA Cup final between these two sides, duly obliged In the 75th minute when he dismissed Mateo Kovacic for a second yellow card. It was a decision which, on balance, would have been worthy of a review had it fallen under the video assistant’s jurisdiction. Chelsea were still coming for the equaliser In the seventh minute of time added on as Pedro, a second half substitute, played his last minutes In a Chelsea shirt.

Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang holds the trophy celebrating with team mates players celebrate with the trophy after the FA Cup final soccer match between Arsenal and Chelsea. Photo / AP
Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang holds the trophy celebrating with team mates players celebrate with the trophy after the FA Cup final soccer match between Arsenal and Chelsea. Photo / AP

The Spanish winger, departing as a free agent for Roma, was injured at the very end, to add to a list of casualties that cost Lampard dearly. His goalscorer Christian Pulisic tore a hamstring In the act of shooting at the start of the second half. Before then, his captain Cesar Azpilicueta had also been withdrawn having torn a muscle chasing Aubameyang who was In the kind of form that can make an old defender think about doing something else for a living.

For Arteta, the honour of winning the 14th FA Cup In Arsenal’s history, two of which he won as an Arsenal player, a place In the Europa League, but also a crucial endorsement of his managerial reputation. So too the establishment of his power within the club: this manager will be able to make demands of Arsenal’s embattled owners. He asks a lot of his players and he will now be In a position to ask for the kind of players more capable of delivering it.

Two sides with an idea of how they wanted to play and a determination to do so whether they yet have the players who might be suitable or otherwise. It was an approach that served both well In their semi-final victories – judged unexpected given the quality of opposition – and against each other Arsenal and Chelsea occupied the knife-edge. One wrong move In the high-stakes possession building and it was a case of who knows what might go wrong.

It was Lampard’s players who looked the more comfortable with what was being asked of them In the early stages. Neither Willian nor N’Golo Kante was judged fit, the latter on the bench, and so it was Jorginho In the centre of midfield once again. Reece James was trusted as the right wing-back and it was from Christian Pulisic that the inspiration came In the early stages.

Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates scoring his side's second goal during the FA Cup final soccer match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley stadium. Photo / AP
Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates scoring his side’s second goal during the FA Cup final soccer match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley stadium. Photo / AP

The United States international became the first American to score In an FA Cup final, within five minutes, starting the move that ended with Olivier Giroud’s deft back heel into the winger’s path. The moment was upon Kieran Tierney before the Scot, playing as one of three Arsenal centre-halves, could even think about safely offering a challenge and so Pulisic was able to sweep the ball past Emiliano Martinez.

Arsenal had looked a little ragged In those early stages. The right-footed Ainsley Maitland-Niles asked to play as a left wing back, gaps In midfield and a determination to play out from the back that felt like it was one stray pass from an act of self-sabotage. Yet that was how it started against Manchester City In the semi-final and they had built something from there and so it was again.

Both backlines were so advanced that there was always the potential for some chaos In behind and so it proved for Arsenal In the 28th minute when Tierney’s ball down the left channel gave Aubameyang an opportunity to get In behind. He was up against Cesar Azpilicueta who knew this was a race he was to lose from the moment he set off. The Chelsea captain was grasping for a handhold from the start and he found it with his left hand on Aubameyang’s right shoulder.

The Arsenal captain delayed his tumble until the area and went down once he had crossed the line. The penalty came moments after Nicolas Pepe had wrapped a shot around Willy Caballero and had it disallowed for an offside decision earlier In the move. No question about the penalty which was dispatched by Aubameyang for the equaliser. Arsenal were much the better side by then and perhaps there should have been another for them In the first half, with the Chelsea defence stretched by the early crosses to the back post.

All thoroughly miserable for Azpilicueta who departed later In the half with a hamstring injury, to be replaced by Andreas Christensen. The Dane came into a defence already being stretched to its limit by that stage and he was obliged to make a couple of key interventions before half-time, one of which a foul on Pepe which earned him a booking.

The Pulisic injury came soon after half-time, his hamstring clearly going In the moments before he tried to hit a shot at the end of a run from inside his own half. Even so, Chelsea were on top when Aubameyang scored what turned out to be the winner. Hector Bellerin driving the ball forward and from Christensen’s tackle the ball went from Pepe to Aubameyang. He switched the ball from his right foot to his left and there was nothing Kurt Zouma or anyone else could do about the skill, or indeed the finish.